Goodbye to the Class of 2017

The College of Applied Health Sciences awarded more than 800 graduate and undergraduate degrees on Sunday, May 14, in a ceremony at the newly renovated State Farm Center. Dr. William Stewart, director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences degree program and a professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, carried the gonfalon, or college banner.

Dr. Stewart is renowned for his research on park and protected area development, including community-based decision-making related to park policy and land-use change. Vivian Villegas, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, gave an inspiring speech to her fellow graduates,

The following students were among the Class of 2017. We bid them and their colleagues a warm farewell. Stay in touch, and stay involved. The future excellence of AHS depends on you!

Patricia Galvez Espinoza

Patricia Galvez Espinoza

PhD, Community Health

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Patricia will return to her home country of Chile as an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Universidad de Chile

Research:

Investigating the eating behaviors of Chilean women of low socioeconomic status through photo elicitation, a technique through which participants take photos of, in this case, things related to their food worlds, which are then used as the basis for follow-up interviews

Notable:

Received the 2015 William H. Creswell Jr. Graduate Student Award; a 2015 conference award; a 2014 dissertation travel award; a 2010 Fulbright; and a 2010 Becas Scholarship

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memories will be those of sharing with and learning from people of other cultures and backgrounds. I have gained a lot of insight from this experience.”

 
Reynaldo De Leon

Reynaldo De Leon

BS, Community Health, concentrations in Health Planning & Administration and Health Education & Promotion

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Taking a gap year as a health educator with AmeriCorps/National Health Corps Chicago before beginning graduate studies

Notable:

Edmund J. James Scholar; research assistant in Dr. Andiara Schwingel’s Aging and Diversity Lab; graduated as a Bronze Tablet Scholar

Favorite memory:

“The best memory I have, perhaps the most entertaining one, happened in the fall of 2016. I had just arrived for my internship at Clark Lindsey Village when I realized I’d lost my phone on one of the MTD buses. I called their office right away to tell them. The operator asked me to give her a distinct description of the phone, so I said, ‘If you click the home button, it will display a picture of my girlfriend at the beach in her bikini.’ The operator laughed so hard and said she hadn’t expected me to go that far. I replied, ‘Well, you said distinct.’”

 
Bridget Maloney

Bridget Maloney

BS, Speech-Language Pathology

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Studies toward a Master of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology at Northwestern University

Notable:

Has served several positions, including president, of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association; volunteered at schools and nursing homes; assisted with campus events such as iHelp and the Autism Walk; research assistant in Dr. Torrey Loucks’ NeuroSpeech Lab; participated in the Undergraduate Research Symposium; received the 2016 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Favorite memory:

“Some of my best memories are when we would have guest speakers at our NSSLHA meetings. These speakers included everyone from practicing speech-language pathologists and audiologists to our professors. No matter how stressful the week, each of these inspiring speakers would remind me of why I became excited about this field in the first place.”

 
Ziad Mahmassani

Ziad Mahmassani

PhD, Kinesiology

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Post-doctoral position at the University of Utah in the lab of Dr. Micah Drummond, assistant professor of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training

Research:

How the A7 integrin impacts the hypertrophic response to load in skeletal muscle

Notable:

Graduate research assistant in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and in Dr. Marni Boppart’s Molecular Muscle Physiology Lab; has published in the Journal of Biophotonics, Journal of Applied Physiology, American Journal of Cell Physiology, and Stem Cell Research

 
Julia Stellmacht

Julia Stellmacht

AuD (Doctor of Audiology)

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Working full-time as a cochlear implant audiologist

Research:

Cochlear implants and balance disorders

Notable:

Completed her fourth-year externship at AMITA Ear Institute of Chicago; manuscript under review for the International Journal of Audiology; presented a poster at AudiologyNOW, the American Academy of Audiology meeting in Phoenix, Arizona; graduate student representative to the University of Illinois Graduate Program Committee

Favorite memory:

“I will remember the relationships I have made along the way, whether with fellow classmates or with faculty. I not only learned a lot about my field, but also benefited greatly from the real-life experiences of the last four years.”

 
Megan Perez

Megan Perez

BS, Health Behavior Change concentration

Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

What's next?

: Begins studies toward a medical degree at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in the fall (one of more than a dozen medical schools that extended her an offer)

Notable:

member of Illinettes Dance Team; volunteered at Women’s Resources Center; research assistant in the Exercise Immunology Lab; tutored for anatomy and physiology courses, and was the scholarship advisor for her sorority; graduated with highest honors and as a Bronze Tablet Scholar

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory has to be the moment I decided to change my future path [from pursuing a nursing degree to pursuing a medical degree] because that change is what led to so many great experiences. My time here has been full of great friendships and faculty mentors who supported me and made the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a special place. I am leaving Illinois knowing that this is a university where students truly can pursue their greatest ambitions.”

 
Megha Mathur

Megha Mathur

BS, Diversity concentration

Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

What's next?

Applying her education in a professional setting until pursuing a Master of Public Health degree and law degree in order to enter the health law field

Notable:

Fred H. Turner Fellow, Office of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Certificate Specialist, Illinois Leadership Center; president and public relations chair for Delta Kappa Delta Sorority; president and director of advocacy for Colleges Against Cancer; volunteered with the National Campus Leadership Team of the American Cancer Society; served as advocacy chair for the North Region Campus Leadership Team of the American Cancer Society

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory is driving to campus in August 2013 for move-in day. I had no clue as to what to expect, but I knew that day that I was home, and that for the next four years, through triumphs and trials, I’d be okay. From that day forward, I was free to begin building my experience. That feeling of immediate love and comfort that I felt from Illinois is something that I will carry with me forever.”

 
Angela Stellrecht

Angela Stellrecht

MS, Community Health, Epidemiology concentration

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Moving to Chicago to pursue a career in health data analysis in a nonprofit setting or with an organization that works to improve the health of underserved and impoverished communities; hopes to promote awareness and increase use of contraceptives among adolescents in order to reduce rates of teen pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted diseases

Research:

Adolescent reproductive health, specifically contraceptive use

Notable:

Taught eight-week course on human sexuality

Favorite memory:

“Working with my advisor, Dr. Flavia Andrade, was such a great and rewarding experience. She involved me in many projects that helped immensely to improve my data analysis and writing skills. Thanks to her guidance, I am confident in my ability to pursue my dream career.”

 
Taylor McGlaughlin

Taylor McGlaughlin

BS, Kinesiology

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which she will complete on the Urbana-Champaign campus; working as the Resident Director at Presby Hall

Notable:

Co-director and instructor for Swimable, an aquatics program for children with special needs; Edmund J. James Scholar all four years; Dean’s List honoree; worked as Resident Advisor in Presby Hall

Favorite memory:

“Over the last four years, I have had so many opportunities to work one-on-one with outstanding faculty members through the James Scholar program. It enriched my college experience and is a phenomenal program for students.”

 

Matthew Ibrahim

BS, Speech-Language Pathology

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Northwestern University’s master’s program in Speech Language Pathology

Notable:

Research assistant to both Dr. Cynthia Johnson and doctoral student Maysoon Biller; worked with The Autism Program; member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association; volunteer for International Prep Academy, Muscular Dystrophy Association Foundation, ETC coffeehouse, and Courage Connection

Favorite memory:

“I think I will miss constantly being surrounded by the friends I made both in and out of my major. I will miss going to class and seeing my friends saving me a spot, and helping each other with material. I will also miss having the best study group a college student could ask for.”

 
Jenna Randl

Jenna Randl

BS, Tourism concentration

Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

What's next?

Building a career in the tourism industry and/or event planning

Notable:

Operations intern for a Marriott Hotel; internship with the Convention and Visotors Bureau of McHenry County; internship with the Dundee Township Park District

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memories that I will take with me are the friends I made in my classes. Many of us took classes together, so it was easy to make friends and nice to see familiar faces. Some of the best friends I have made in college are from RST.”

 
Sanghun Park

Sanghun Park

PhD, Tourism specialization

Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

What's next?

A faculty position where he can continue his research on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism planning and management, and tourism policy

Research:

Cultural sustainability within the context of heritage tourism management, the multifaceted and dynamic interactions between global priorities and local needs for development, the views of local communities in and around a prospective World Heritage Site in South Korea and their perceptions, expectations, and fears of potential change

Notable:

Received the Humanities and Social Sciences Dissertation Fellowship Award and the Allen V. Sapora Research Award for Ph.D. Student Research; has published in Annals of Tourism Research, Journal of Travel Research, Journal of Travel and Tourism, and Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change

Favorite memory:

“I am grateful that the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism provided me with significant opportunities for research and teaching that have been central in my academic and personal growth. I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Carla Santos, for her endless support and encouragement throughout my doctoral studies. I wish also to express my sincere thanks and love to my wife and our new-born son for accompanying me on this journey and for the many memories I treasure of our time together in Champaign.”

 

Kathryn Prescott

MS, Speech-Language Pathology

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

After completing her medical internship this summer, Kathryn will begin work as a speech-language pathologist for School District 99 in Cicero, Illinois

Notable:

Research assistant in Dr. Laura Hahn’s Development and Neurogenetic Disorders Lab; member of winning team of 2017 Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association College Bowl; volunteer for Urbana Folk and Roots Festival

Favorite memory:

“A favorite memory of mine is eating fresh corn on the cob with friends every August at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival.”

 
Hyun Kim

Hyun Kim

PhD, Community Health

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Hyun has a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of Integrative Physiology and Health Science at Alma College in Alma, Michigan

Research:

Epidemiological and socioeconomic studies of chronic conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, as well as of health behaviors such as diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking

Notable:

Selected as “Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students” as a teaching assistant at Illinois

Favorite memory:

"One of the best experiences I had at Illinois was definitely working with Dr. Flavia Andrade. She was the most influential person I have ever met for my academic and professional development during my years at the University of Illinois, and she still is.”

 
Melanie Samuels

Melanie Samuels

BS, Audiology concentration

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Northwestern University’s Doctor of Audiology program

Notable:

Research assistant in Dr. Justin Aronoff’s Binaural Hearing Lab; American Sign Language tutor; member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women; member of National Student Speech Language Hearing Association

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memories are being with my friends from my dorm, sorority, and the SHS program!”

 
Thomas Clemens

Thomas Clemens

BS, Kinesiology

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

University of Colorado at Denver’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program

Notable:

Worked as personal trainer for Campus Recreation for two years; served on leadership team of Swimable, an aquatics club for individuals with special needs; Dean’s List and Edmund J. James Scholar all four years and served on James Scholar Advisory Board; research assistant in Dr. Steven Petruzzello’s Exercise Psychophysiology Lab for two years

Favorite memory:

“Before Uber was around, I paid a delivery driver from China King five dollars to drive me home because I didn’t want to walk.”

 
Baldwin Lau

Baldwin Lau

BS, Community Health, Health Planning and Administration concentration

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Medical school, in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, or Australia

Notable:

Involved in two research labs, the Body Composition and Nutritional Neuroscience Lab in KCH and the Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab in the Beckman Institute; volunteered at Carle Foundation Hospital, Beckwith Residential Support Services in Nugent Hall, and the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education; Edmund J. James Scholar; graduated with campus Bronze Tablet Honors and Highest Honors from AHS

Favorite memory:

“Definitely the friendly faces all across campus, from students to staff to faculty. I am also amazed by the amount and quality of research opportunities available to undergraduate students that allow us to explore our interests. I will try to keep in touch with friends and professors after graduation and continue my research at some point in the future.”

 
Cassie Rynott

Cassie Rynott

BS, Recreation Management and Sport Management concentrations

Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

What's next?

Graduate studies in Recreation, Sport and Tourism

Notable:

Interned with Illinois Premium Seating and Illini Men’s Club Hockey; studied Sport Management in Scotland; graduated with campus Bronze Tablet Honors and Highest Honors in AHS; member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory was when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. The 7th game was on the night of my dance troupe’s dress rehearsal, so we decided to live stream the game while we rehearsed in Foellinger Hall. The mass chaos that erupted when the Cubs won was surreal, and a few of us ended up running to Green Street to take part in the celebration.”

 
Akila Prasad

Akila Prasad

AuD (Doctor of Audiology)

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Focusing on diagnostics and hearing aid fittings at Audiology and Hearing Aid Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, after graduation

Research:

Improving counseling techniques for current and future cochlear implant candidates

Notable:

Completed her fourth-year externship at Arizona Hearing Center in Phoenix

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memories include the AMAZING food and all the awesome restaurants around town. I still haven’t found sushi anywhere on the west coast that beats KoFusion’s Chicago roll. I’m also going to miss the beautiful fall months when the leaves change, and seeing all my classmates on a regular basis. These last four years have meant so much to me, and I’m leaving with a lot of love for the Midwest!”

 
Rikka Skillrud

Rikka Skillrud

BS, Health and Aging Concentration

Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

What's next?

Backpacking across Europe for two months, then beginning studies toward a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree at Washington University in St. Louis

Notable:

Co-Director of Membership Recruitment in the Student Alumni Ambassadors; worked for Spurlock Museum and Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation; volunteered in the Renal and Cardiovascular Disease Research Laboratory

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memories include participating in the 2016 Homecoming Court festivities, seeing Jupiter and its four Galilean moons through the observatory on campus, and celebrating the Cubs' World Series win on Green Street last year.”

 

Nick Baumgartner

MS, Kinesiology

Department of Kinesiology and Community Health

What's next?

Joining a neuroscience lab to investigate the effects of physical activity and aerobic fitness on cognition. Plans to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience in the future, with a focus on how aerobic fitness and physical activity impact memory and cognitive performance in youth and older individuals

Research:

The relationships among physical activity, fitness, body composition, and cognition across the lifespan. Has studied the influence of acute and chronic physical activity, and aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, on cognition

Notable:

Presented research on sedentary time’s relationship to behavioral and neuroelectric indices of cognitive control at the Experimental Biology Conference; presented research on physical activity, adiposity, and attentional inhibition, and the influence of physical activity on aerobic capacity, at Annual World Congress meetings of the American College of Sports Medicine; named to the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students”

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory has to be the first conference I attended, where I was given the opportunity to present my research for the first time. My first time being in a scientific atmosphere, where everyone was coming together for one purpose, is something I will never forget. It really inspired me to see so many people from around the world who were interested in health and well-being. The experience made me proud to be in the research community and excited to continue my neurocognitive kinesiology work.”

 
Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan

BS, Sport Management concentration

Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism

What's next?

Spending four months in South Africa volunteering with organizations that focus on youth and sport development, followed by six months in Kenya, where he will teach children about the importance of sport and coaching sports.

Notable:

Worked for Campus Recreation’s Events Department for the last year; completed second bachelor’s degree in economics; Edmund J. James Scholar in the College of Applied Health Sciences

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory has to be organizing a talent show at Clark Lindsey Village for RST 300. Various students and residents showcased their talents or passions. The event lasted for about an hour but just being able to involve them and showing them a good time made me feel good. We could tell they really enjoyed the event which made the three-month process completely worthwhile.”

 
Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz

BS, Audiology concentration

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

What's next?

Working at Argonne National Laboratory and applying to dental school

Notable:

I-Leap Scholar; Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society; undergraduate research assistant in the Aging and Diversity Lab; member of Pre-dental club, Delta Delta Sigma Pre-Dental fraternity, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity

Favorite memory:

“My favorite memory is standing on the quad on my very first day of class freshman year. I’ve wanted to be an Illini for as long as I can remember and standing on the quad as an actual student felt so surreal. I remember how nervous I was on my first day: I was overwhelmed and wasn’t sure what to expect. Despite my nerves, these past four years at the university were everything I could have imagined and more. I’m so appreciative for my amazing family, professors and friends that helped me along the way. I will forever cherish my time that I spent at the University of Illinois.”